‘I hid device to record meeting’


  • Nation
  • Friday, 22 Nov 2019

KUALA LUMPUR: The coordination meeting to discuss amendments to the 1Malaysia Development Bhd (1MDB) audit report was not minuted but a recording device slipped inside a pencil case made its way out, revealing what had transpired.

Audit director Nor Salwani Muhammad, 52, told the High Court she had placed the recorder inside the pencil case belonging to former audit performance director Saadatul Nafisah Bashir Ahmad.

Saadatul attended the coordination meeting on Feb 24, 2016 with her boss, former auditor-general Tan Sri Ambrin Buang.

The court had earlier heard the meeting was called and chaired by former chief secretary to the government Tan Sri Ali Hamsa, at the behest of former prime minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak.

Nor Salwani, who was under examination-in-chief by lead prosecutor Datuk Seri Gopal Sri Ram, said the recording device was placed for her to have the meeting minutes.

“I was appointed as the coordinator for the preparation of 1MDB audit report. Therefore, I need to know what was discussed in the meeting as I was not allowed to join.

“Saadatul did not know I placed the recorder inside her pencil case. After the meeting ended, I took the device,” she said.

Nor Salwani made the revelation during the joint trial of Najib and former 1MDB CEO Arul Kanda Kandasamy, dubbed as the PAC trial, here yesterday.

According to Nor Salwani, Ambrin appeared upset after the meeting.

Sri Ram: Did you notice what Ambrin looked like? His demeanour?

Nor Salwani: He looked upset with what had transpired. He looked very sad, he was mumbling something as I followed him.

Sri Ram: He looked upset?

Nor Salwani: I followed him to the washroom as he went to wash his face.

Sri Ram: Why did you do that?

Nor Salwani: I was afraid he might fall down because he looked fragile at the time.

Sri Ram: Did he say anything?

Nor Salwani: He was mumbling, “what is the purpose of the audit?”

The witness said she and the audit team went back to the office and replayed the recording.

“We were shocked upon hearing the request to omit some things from the report, including the existence of two financial statements,” she said.

Nor Salwani said she took a step further by transferring the recording to a hard disk and a thumb drive.

The original recording in the device was deleted as the device belonged to the government. This, she said, was to prevent any leak of information.

In her more than two decades of experience, Nor Salwani said the content of the meeting was shocking to her.

“It was not normal,” she told the court.

On Wednesday, the audio clip was played at the court and Ali, who took the stand, identified several voices in it.

A day before, Ali told the court that he called a coordination meeting between 1MDB and several related agencies as instructed by Najib. He said no minutes were recorded during the meeting.

Four issues were agreed to be removed from the audit report, including the issues of two conflicting financial statements and fugitive financier Low Taek Jho’s presence at a 1MDB meeting despite him having no official position in the company.

The court also heard how Nor Salwani held onto one of the 60 original copies of 1MDB audit report against the order by her superior to destroy all of them. The copy, which bore a “09” watermark, was tendered in court.

“With pure intention, I had surrendered the report watermarked ‘09’ to allow the new auditor-general to get the whole picture about the audit findings,” the witness said.

Meanwhile, Ambrin testified that the audit on 1MDB and its group of companies could have been completed in five months but the process took a year due to difficulties in getting information.

The audit started in March 2015 and was carried out by 12 officers from the National Audit Department.

“It took a long time as we faced limitations in obtaining several original and important documents, either they were delayed or never handed over by 1MDB at all.

“These documents were significant to verify the true financial position and company operations as well as related transactions for the audit,” he said.

Najib is accused of using his position to order amendments to the 1MDB final audit report before it was tabled to the PAC to avoid any action against him.

He allegedly committed the offence in Putrajaya between Feb 22 and 26, 2016.

Arul Kanda was charged with abetting Najib at the same place and time.

The hearing continues before Justice Mohamed Zaini Mazlan next Wednesday.

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court , 1MDB , audit report , Najib Razak

   

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